Among all travel-related industries, airlines are rated the lowest in customer satisfaction, according to the American Customer Satisfaction Index travel report, released Tuesday.
Airlines were given a 69 out of 100 possible points for the second year in a row.
This doesn’t surprise Catherine Banks, co-owner and vice president of Legacy Travel, a national travel agency with offices in Dallas and Chicago.
“I think that no one plans to enjoy to fly on an airplane,” Banks said. “Of course it’s the lowest rated, why wouldn’t it be? It’s utilitarian transportation from Point A to Point B.”
The main issue fliers are having, according to the report, is that they aren’t comfortable while in flight. Seat comfort and in-flight service were the two biggest problems.
Banks indicated that to improve scores, airlines will need to make people more comfortable.
“Lots of things have gotten better,” Banks said. “There is now WiFi on many flights, which allows traveler to do work and relax. But it all comes down to two things: seat comfort, and people don’t feel treated well by the flight attendants.”
What about viral videos of funny flight attendants seeking to make the experience a smooth one?
According to Banks, though the flight attendant in question was particularly funny, Southwest always does that. “That just goes with Southwest’s personality, and that’s why they rank so well,” Banks said. “People are allowed to like their jobs and encouraged to be creative.”
Southwest was ranked among the highest in the report, with 78 points out of 100. Southwest was barely bested by JetBlue, another low-cost carrier, who came out with 79 out of 100 points.
Of the airlines, United experienced the most turbulence with customers, coming out on bottom with 60 points out of 100.
Banks indicated this may be the effect of their merger with Continental in 2010.
“Delta was ranked worse after their merger (with Northwest Airlines in 2008), and is now doing better. Airlines take a hit when they merge because people are unhappy, they have to make adjustments with point balances and preferred programs,” Banks said.
Banks predicts that American will likely take a hit the next time ratings are released, due to the airline’s upcoming merge with US Airways. This merger will create the world’s largest carrier, and will undoubtedly come with a few hiccups.
So what’s a frequent flier to do in order to find in-flight happiness?
Buy the preferred seats.
According to Banks, “If you want to be happy and comfortable, you have to pay for those seats. So buy those seats.”